There are many traditions for the celebration of Samhain, or secular Halloween. One of my favorites is the creation of an Ancestor Altar. That is, a special altar that honors your ancestors, and assists them in communicating with you during this time of the thinning veil.

The ancestor altar is present in many cultural traditions. In some cultures, offerings of food, tobacco and libations are left for the ancestors upon the altar. In others, the altar is a place for photographs and special mementos of our loved ones in spirit.

My ancestor altar includes tarot cards as a way of connecting with those I have loved and lost, and those who passed before I was born. I use two different tarot decks for this. I use one deck at the altar to do readings as a way of receiving communication from my loved ones. I use another deck from which to choose cards to place on the altar as a way of invoking and honoring my loved ones.

Tarot cards can work as a replacement for pictures and mementos, or we can use the cards in addition to pictures and mementos.

Which cards might you use to honor and welcome your ancestors, and your loved ones in spirit? Of course, you can use any cards that feel right. Here are some suggestions.

The Ten of Pentacles references ancestors. With this card you can honor and invoke all of your ancestors, even those you don’t know by name.

The Six of Cups can honor and reference those whom you knew and loved in childhood.

The Empress is the perfect card to honor and invoke your mother or grandmother, while the Emperor can invoke and honor your father or grandfather. The Hermit is also appropriate for a grandfather.

You can use any of the Pages to honor and invoke a child who has passed. The Knights can honor and invoke those who passed as young adults. Kings and Queens can be friends or relatives.

Typically, when working with Court cards, you can use the suit associated with the person’s sun sign if you happen to know it. Or, simply use the Court card that seems to favor the person best, either by physical characteristics or personality.

You can also use cards that speak of a person’s personality or affinities. For example, use the Sun card for someone who loved the beach, or the Chariot for someone who rode a motorcycle. You might use Justice for an attorney or police officer.

The process of choosing cards for your ancestor altar is meditative and magickal. The process of choosing the cards and placing them one at a time on the altar, with intention, will help prepare you for communion with your loved ones.

Including tarot cards on your ancestor altar lends to your altar the collective power inherent in tarot.